can vs. carton

Monday, December 07, 2009

As a longtime advocate for innovative and eco-friendly wine packaging, I received the yellow+blue and Elkan offerings (pictured above) with considerable interest.

Elkan (a play on el can?) is a lineup of Chilean wines packaged in aluminum cans. “Perfect any place glass is not allowed or not convenient” says the promotional material. And it goes on to extol the virtues of aluminum, which weighs less than glass and claims to be infinitely re-cyclable.

So far, so good. The wines come in four-paks, each can the equivalent of a half bottle of wine, with a suggested retail of around $3.50/can. I tasted four of the six offerings, which include sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, rosé of cabernet, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and carmenère.

I give the wines high marks for innovative packaging, which may conceivably bring new, can-friendly consumers into the wine fold. Eco-benefits, if they are as claimed, are an added plus. But there is one big drawback. The taste of aluminum. Most of us are happy to drink soft drinks and beer out of cans, because that metallic flavor is masked. For me, the Elkan wines did the opposite. They picked it up. I found myself seeking the wine flavors around the can flavors. I wanted to recommend them. But no can do.

I am more than willing to acknowledge the possibility that perhaps I was fooled simply by the appearance of the package. Maybe my brain saw a can and alerted my mouth to the fact. “Warning! Cans ahead!” Or maybe not. But as much as I want to support innovative concepts in wine, it still comes down to this. How does the wine taste? In my trials, bag-in-box and Tetrapak cartons do a better job of preserving the flavor.

The clear winner in this mini-competition is yellow+blue, also eco-friendly, packaged in one liter cartons, and featuring wines from Argentina and Spain. Vintage-dated and organically-grown, these sell for $8 - $10 and are very well made. The Argentine torrontés is soft and fruity, with lime and pineapple; the Spanish rosé dry and pleasingly tart. The malbec is best of show.


@nectarwine said...


It's good to see winemakers exploring new directions. In a world of finite resources we have to keep our minds open to new ideas. From a marketing perspective, the makers of elkan have an interresting product but they may have a hard time overcoming public perception. The Yellow + Blue makers may see good results if they make smaller 250ml mini-containers. These could be good in several instances and seem to lend themselves to better public acceptance.

Thanks for sharing and helping to move the wine industry forward

Josh @nectarwine (Twitter)

Micah N said...

I am down with eco-friendly and innovative packaging as well in the food processing industry. But for very small hands-on winery operations, this kind of packaging is out of reach cost wise. Tetra-pak, bag-in-box, even screw caps need specialized machinery to evacuate, fill, and seal. And in the case of bag-in-box, I am not 100% sure all materials are re-cyclable. For me, I can evacuate a bottle or purge with inert gas, fill, and seal with a cork all by hand...albeit very slowly. And when I am finished drinking the end product, I can recycle the glass and bio-degrade the cork.

I like the look of the yellow+blue product, and I would buy and drink wine packaged in PET bottles (that are re-cyclable) if the product is good, but glass is king. I drink my beer in glass, I drink my wine in glass, and I drink my iced-tea in glass.

Plymale said...

Yikes, without looking into the matter, I think I'd be afraid of the acidity dissolving the aluminum over time. (Is this FDA approved? All these look non-American (not un-American).

But perhaps over the "12-month" gauranteed shelf life...

Post a Comment

Your comment is awaiting moderation and will be posted ASAP. Thanks!